Just-defeated GOP Rep. Mia Love fired farewell shots Monday at Republicans, Democrats, President Donald Trump and the news media — with a special volley aimed at the man who beat her, Democratic Rep.-elect Ben McAdams.
“I believe that we have elected a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” she said about him. “There is a cost, and we will pay it.”
That came at a short news conference that began with her wishing McAdams well but ended with her criticisms of him and his campaign “character assassination tactics" that she said have “stained our state.”
She also used the unusual news conference to turn her fire on Trump, who mocked her after the election, blaming her defeat on her decision to keep him at arm’s length in the election.
“This gave me a clear vision of his world as it is. No real relationships, just convenient transactions,” Love said. “It is an insufficient way to implement sincere service and policy.”
She vowed to continue to deliver such biting attacks now that her defeat means she is “unleashed, untethered, and I am unshackled and I can say exactly what is on my mind.”
She may try to regain her seat in a rematch with McAdams in two years. When asked if she plans to run again, she said simply, “I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Later, in a CNN interview, she said she will be prayerful as she decides whether to run again. "That is going to be between Heavenly Father, my family. And I am leaving all options open. I’m just going to allow myself to be a servant and to do everything I can to be an example to my kids.”
Her news conference at Utah Republican Party headquarters in Salt Lake City — standing beside her parents, her husband and two of her children — was the first time that Love talked directly to the news media since final vote counts last week showed that she lost the race by 694 votes.
Chris Karpowitz, co-director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University, said Love’s news conference and its “equal opportunity bashing” were definitely a departure from politics as usual.
If she were planning to run again for her House seat, “The traditional thing to do would simply be to congratulate your opponent and wait for another day," he said. " …. It definitely was not a speech that included olive branches to anyone."
While her criticisms were wide ranging over many targets, McAdams, the two-term mayor of Salt Lake County, took her harshest shots over his attack ads. However, Love actually ran the first negative attacks in the campaign and kept up a steady stream of them — as did McAdams.
When she was asked about that, she said, “I still believe that all of my thoughts, all of the things I put out there were honest and truthful and verified. It was policy driven. It wasn’t about assassinating anyone’s character or putting false information out there.”
McAdams chose not to fire back. His campaign manager, Andrew Roberts, released a statement simply thanking Love for her call to McAdams over the weekend congratulating him on his win.
He added that McAdams “wishes her and her family all the best. It is time to put the election behind us. Ben is focused on getting to work finding bipartisan solutions for Utah in Congress.”
Love, the first and only black Republican woman elected to the House, lashed out at both parties Monday — saying Democratic policies hurt blacks, that Republicans make minorities feel unwelcome, as shown by some actions by Trump.
She said she was surprised that while votes were still being counted, Trump took his jab at her.
“The president’s behavior toward me made me wonder: What did he have to gain by saying such a thing about a fellow Republican?” she said. “It was not really about asking him to do more [in the campaign] was it? Or was it something else?”
Love added such experiences and comments “shine the spotlight on the problems Washington politicians have with minorities and black Americans. It’s transactional. It’s not personal. You see we feel like politicians claim they know what’s best for us from a safe distance, but they’re never willing to take us home.”
While conservative policies could help blacks, she said, “because Republicans never take minority communities into their homes … and into their hearts, they stay with Democrats and bureaucrats in Washington because they do take them home, or at least make them feel like they have a home."
She pointed to Democratic victories in the midterms, electing new black members and female members to the House. “This is a fact — that Republicans lost in this regard.”
But Love said minorities should question the cost of staying with the Democratic Party “that potentially delivers exactly what you need to stay exactly where you are…. To make poverty tolerable instead of temporary.”
She also took a shot at the news media.
“I saw the media write uneducated, unfair, irresponsible stories. My ethics, my record lied about, tarnished, and repeated over and over again on TV right in front of our children.”
Love said that, sadly, Utahns should expect “that this is how elections will be won” from here on out.
“The good news is I’m not going away,” and with defeat she now "can say exactly what’s on my mind.”
She said, “I will continue to raise conservative values while taking people into my heart and my home wherever I go. Best of all, I don’t need a title or permission to do that.”
Why could she not have done that the past four years as a member of Congress? “There are a lot of people as a representative that you are representing, and you want to make sure that you are incredibly careful in some of your responses and some of your thoughts. I think that’s the difference,” she said.
“Come January, I won’t be a representative … so I can actually say the things I believe will make some good positive changes.”
Did she make a mistake by not speaking out more before now? “I do not have any regrets for my actions and behaviors as a representative,” she said.
Karpowitz, the BYU political scientist, said Love’s performance might hurt her if she chooses to run again for a House seat but could help her move toward other roles — such as becoming a GOP spokeswoman to and about minorities.
“Clearly, she’s felt frustrated within the Republican Party. That’s what made the press conference so unusual. She was simultaneously arguing for Republican policy positions and against the party’s current approach to bringing in people of color,” he said.
“That also raises the question about where her voice was earlier in her service,” Karpowitz said. “This is simply not the voice she had in her time in her office, where she was, by her own account, quite hesitant to speak out and especially to speak directly to minority communities or to speak on behalf of minority interests.”